Clemson's Tee Higgins

Wide receiver Tee Higgins goes airborne with his salute as the Tigers run down the hill in Death Valley on Saturday for Military Appreciation Day.

CLEMSON — The Clemson Tigers will attempt to secure their 10th win of the 2019 season and potentially a conference division title on Saturday when they face the N.C. State Wolfpack in prime time.

Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. at Carter-Finley Stadium.

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"It's always a challenge to go up to Raleigh. It's never easy up there. It has been a grind. Dave Doeren is a great coach, it's a well-coached team," Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Tuesday. "They have had a lot of injuries this year, but this is a tough, physical team. They scheme as good as anybody we play year in and year out. It's really a tough task to play there.

"Their crowd — they show up. It's a tough environment."

Depending on the results of an earlier contest, the game could present an opportunity for Clemson to clinch a berth in the ACC Championship. A Clemson victory preceded by a Wake Forest loss to Virginia Tech would clinch the ACC Atlantic crown for Clemson for the fifth consecutive season.

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However, for the Tigers, regardless of whether an Atlantic Division title is on the line, there is a trophy on the line — the Textile Bowl trophy.

"It's the Textile Bowl. It goes way back," Swinney said. "There's a trophy getting handed out after this game. I guess we'll load it up and take it up there. It's the history. N.C. State has been really good. Goodness ... they've had some players, a bunch of really good players. I think Dave and them do a great job.

"They play tough, physical and it's a team that is dangerous. They are unpredictable. They're young. We have to play well and be locked in. It's also a tough place to play."

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Clemson enters this week as the lone 9-0 team on the FBS level of NCAA play and is in search of its ninth consecutive 10-win season, dating back to 2011. A ninth-straight 10-win season would tie Clemson with the 2001-09 Texas Longhorns for the third-longest streak of 10-win seasons in FBS history.

"For us, going up there, it's about execution," Swinney said. "We're excited to be 9-0. We want to get that 10th win. We want to win our division. If we do that, little things lead to big things.

"If you win the division trophy, you get a chance to win a bigger trophy."

If the Tigers are going to advance to 10-0 this weekend, the offense, which has been putting up record-setting numbers, will have to play their best game of the season because they are facing an attacking Wolfpack team.

"We are going to have to do a great job of communicating and picking up their pressures," Swinney said. "They're going to pressure. They don't sit back. They are going to attack you and challenge you. They're going to bring pressure almost 50 percent of the time. They force you to make plays.

"We did not run the ball well on them last year. We were about 2.9 a carry. We have to improve in that area in this game. They're good up front, too."

The rankings

Swinney has never been a proponent of the rankings before the end of the regular season.

"We have a saying around here that some horses are quick off the line, some are slow, some are OK, but the thoroughbreds pole at the end of the race," he said.

Meaning, Swinney does not care where the Tigers are ranked in the first College Football Playoff ranking this week, because he believes his Tigers are thoroughbreds.

"No. If we lose to N.C. State, we won't celebrate where we are in the poll," Swinney said. "We just need to focus on what we can control. I can't focus on people's opinions. I have no idea where they will rank us. We have a chance. If we stay focused and committed and do the things that win this time of year, we will be in the conversation.

"What if we're No. 1? What are we going to do, have a parade? That stuff doesn't matter. Not worth the brain cells. We're going to work."

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Zach Lentz is a Clemson University alumnus who got his start working with the Tigers basketball team from 1999-2004. Now a resident of Orangeburg County, he reports on Clemson sports as a correspondent for The Times and Democrat. He also serves as a co-host of Solid Orange, seen at 11 p.m. Wednesdays on WACH FOX 57 in Columbia. He is editor of www.ClemsonMaven.io


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